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ADHD and stress

One of the symptoms of ADHD in adults is being unable to deal with stress.

Other ADHD symptoms, including inattention or hyperactivity, can cause frustration, which can also lead to stress.

A person with ADHD may also experience other mental health conditions that are linked to stress, such as:

Which is the cause and which the result? No one really knows, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to address stress while dealing with ADHD.

Why worry about ADHD and stress?

Everybody feels stress. Stress helps you focus on something that requires attention - and that’s good. It can make you work harder and react quicker. Otherwise you might stumble into something dangerous.

Stress becomes bad when it overwhelms your ability to act. When stress levels remain high for long periods, problems such as depression and heart disease can result.

So what’s the connection between stress and ADHD? ADHD presents ongoing challenges that can make stress and frustration become out of control. If you have ADHD and a lot of unmanaged stress, it could increase your risk of such health problems as:

ADHD and stress in children

Anyone with ADHD - children, teenagers and adults - can do a lot to manage stress. These strategies can be adapted for any age.

Follow through on ADHD treatment

Stick to your ADHD treatment plan, whether it’s medication or behavioural therapy. Talk to your doctor before making any changes to it.

Learn stress-management skills

Here are some areas to consider:

  • Strategies for dealing with stressful situations
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Communication skills
  • Learning to speak up for yourself and your needs

Develop relaxation techniques

Learn techniques for meditation, prayer or relaxation. Biofeedback may also be useful to help monitor stress and how you respond to it.

Remove stress when appropriate

Some stress can simply be removed. Other stressful situations can be avoided. For example, for a child with ADHD you may want to schedule play dates with only one other child and monitor the play. A teen or adult may want to cut back on extra activities during stressful times.

Take control of your life wherever you can

This can be especially helpful for children and teenagers who often feel lack of control. Teenagers, for example, should be part of any plans that directly involve them, whether at school or at home.

Maintain your overall health

Staying healthy helps you manage ADHD better and also helps your body to respond more readily to any extra stress. Children, teenagers and adults with ADHD can all take these steps to maintain health:

  • Avoid any stimulants that may stress the brain, such as caffeine or nicotine.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get enough sleep.

Seek out support

Friends, family, others with ADHD, and mental health professionals who understand ADHD can all help children, teenagers and adults deal with stress. Here are some suggestions:

  • Teenagers and adults can benefit from working with an ADHD coach, a professional organiser or a job coach.
  • Connect with groups that provide ADHD information and support.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on September 08, 2017

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